The theme of hidden histories has in some shape or form been present throughout our recent projects; Mailbox44, Where the Wildflowers Grow, and A Sense of Direction.
We have slowly started to unpack these stories during our first conversation exploring Family Spaces but in this visual discussion, we dive more deeply into the intricacies of these histories and why it continues to be vital to analyse them even today.
During this theme, we also featured three incredible practitioners Nuno Guerreiro de Sousa, Alba Diaz, and Vera Zurbrügg who have produced projects on the multi-faceted and complex themes of community, society, past events and isolation in the context of hidden histories in three different countries around the world.
NUNO GUERREIRO DE SOUSA
MAILBOX44 by Kristina Sergeeva
In Russia, the phenomenon of secret closed towns has been present since the mid 1940s, throughout the Cold War period and the nuclear age, prompted by the two world wars. The regime of secrecy was created in order to house a military industrial complex within the walls of each of these secret towns. Secret towns were positioned in various geographic locations and were non-existent on Soviet maps. Secured by a concrete wall, in the past, these closed towns might have resonated a feeling of privilege, safety and comfort. My grandparents were recruited to be a part of one such community, arriving from Nizhny Tagil, Russia in 1975 with their two children with the hope of a better life.
WHERE THE WILDFLOWERS GROW by Michaela Nagyidaiová
Portraying a rural village hidden in a mountainous area of northern Greece, this project reveals a site where the history continues to play a role in shaping its current state. My family originated from this place and lived there until they were forced to leave their home behind, and never returned. This is a journey through the homeland of my ancestors, documenting a place that was once affected by the Greek Civil War (1946-1949), and attempting to understand its past that remains a taboo topic in my family until today. Delving into the history of the environment, showing the remnants of its past, the work examines ancestral heritage.
The Greek Civil War (1946-1949) is marked by some as the beginning of the Cold War. It was a conflict between the communists and monarchists, resulting in significant damages to the environment and displacements of thousands of children. Until now, the aftermath of the civil war remains rooted in some of the country’s landscapes and communities.
ROUND THE CORNER / É JÁ ALI by Nuno Guerreiro de Sousa
"Round the corner or É já ali is a commonly used expression in Alentejo, a region in southern Portugal. The vast mountainous landscape and the sparse distribution of inhabitants create a very specific scale of both distance and time. Often, when asked for directions, people will say it’s ‘round the corner’ even though it could be more than an hour’s drive away.
The ongoing isolation, desertification and insufficient social engagement, has contributed to Odemira having the highest suicide rate per capita in Europe, one of the highest in the world, specially amongst the elderly. Round the corner portrays the isolation that the landscape imposes on its people, while collecting personal stories on life in rural Alentejo and explores the prevalent suicide culture."
PACT OF SILENCE by Alba Diaz
"During the Spanish Civil War (1936—1939) and Franco’s dictatorship, thousands of people were executed and buried in unmarked ditches around Spain. My great-grandfather Jose Montes de Oca was among those never found.
‘The Pact of Silence’ focuses on the way in which political amnesia and repression evolved into national complicity in the collective forgetfulness about the executed. In 1977, an Amnesty Law was passed with the aim of striving towards national reconciliation. Spanish society today is unaware of the presence of communal ditches that conceal dead bodies underneath their ordinary spaces. Mundane locations such as car parks, schools or road conjunctions prevent the recovery of victims, while prompting an uncertain future for the concealed bodies."
SILENCE IS GOLDEN by Vera Zurbrügg
"Silence Is Golden is a work in progress which engages with the different aspects of state secrecy and concealment of information in the context of the gold trades between the Swiss National Bank and the Third Reich and its direct effect on the people.
Switzerland was the primary hub for the Nazis to exchange gold for hard currencies to buy goods for their warfare. Some of this gold had a specific provenance: it was composed of the remelted property of prisoners of concentration camps. These gold bars are known as victim gold. Documents show that in 1943 the Swiss National Bank had the suspicion that the German gold came from Nazi-occupied territories and was being confiscated by the Reichsbank in gross violation of international law. Nevertheless, the Swiss National Bank kept accepting gold until 1945.
After the war, these victim gold bars were then presumably used for the minting of an iconic Swiss gold coin, the ‘Vreneli’. This coin is mainly given as a gift for special occasions such as baptisms or significant birthdays. Through the withholding of information, buyers of such gold coins were unknowingly complicit in the morally questionable deals between the Swiss National Bank and the Nazis."